Safety is paramount! Night WALX can be fun and it means you can train through winter. But you must ensure you are dressed to be seen!
It never ceases to amaze me how many people exercise at night and wear dark clothes, often without lighting or reflective bands, sometimes wearing head phones and out alone. Training alone can’t always be avoided but there are so many things you can do to be a lot more safe and wise up to dangers that you may not realise or think possible.
A few years ago I was out running with one of my dogs. We both had hi viz tabards on, I had a head torch, and I was running towards the traffic. I got stopped by a police car. They asked to have a few words about safety. I smiled and said sure, feeling confident I was a sensible runner. They congratulated me on having hi viz on both the dog and myself, safety light and running towards the traffic. But they also asked –
Did I have a phone?
Did I have an ICE number logged in?
Did I have ID on me?
Does some one know my route?
And what time I should be back?
How will the dog behave if our space was invaded?
Oh the list was endless and rather unnerving!
Their concern was because a lone female runner had been attacked just a couple of days prior, in an urban area with some street lighting. You can never be too complacent. Men and women, please do have a look at this list and keep your selves safe.
When I set out to train in the dark, these are my top tips to stay safe:-
- Make sure some one knows your route and your return time.
- Make sure your route is safe, has lighting if possible and decent ground. Trail running in the dark isn’t the safest of options.
- Make sure you are well enough for the run, cycle ride or walk and can do the distance you have chosen.
- Don’t be a hero and go out in dreadful weather. You may feel feel the need for the exercise but if things go wrong, think of the consequences; emergency services, injury, finding you, worsening a known condition even if flu or cold, for example.
- Take a charged phone. It can double as a torch if necessary! Make sure your emergency contact is logged in with the acronym ICE (In Case Emergency) precedes their name. Plus log in the emergency services number 112 which will ensure they have your location and can be used in poor signal.
- Wear a head torch, or bands that have a light. Check batteries etc, make sure they are working! I have a chest harness which is more comfortable and I wear that over my reflective running vest.
- Wear clothes that have reflectors or hi viz colours. My favourite robust brand is Proviz. Keep fit clothing is starting to get a little more colourful but there is still a lot of dark colours, especially those sold as winter running kit! Be bright, be safe, be seen!
- Make sure you wear layers and take in to account the weather. Layers can be removed and added but make sure you are still visible.
- Take a bum bag which has emergency items such as safety pins, plaster, energy gel (or Go faster bites), sweets, coins for a bus, foil blanket and your emergency ID and medical details. That could be worn as a separate bracelet. A couple of years ago, when out on a run, I turned my ankle and got a bus back because I was prepared for the unforeseen emergency. My husband was home looking after the babies so it would have been a huge inconvenience to call him out.
- Avoid listening to music. If it is essential just have one ear bud in, and volume low! Be aware of who and what is around you at all times.
- Go out with a hat rather than a hood. A hood will affect your peripheral vision and being able to hear all around.
- Consider training with a personal safety device. Have that and your phone within easy reach so you can grab both quickly.
- I also have a safety beacon on so my husband can track where I am. A few other running and walking apps have those, just check the settings.
- I also switch my routes around and run at different times. The no one can know and pre-empt my route. Also makes sure I have some variety!
- I train on road routes and avoid trail paths so that I can be sure of a safer footing. Should I fall or something happen, I am more likely to get help in an urban area with traffic, houses and popular rotes.
- I sometimes walk the dogs on a trail route at Dawn so I know it is going to be light within 15-30 minutes. My dog still stays on the lead so I know where they are and won’t wipe me out they comes back playfully at 100mph! I also know the path and my husband knows where I am! I wear trail shoes and stick to the less rutted/rooted paths where I am less likely to have an accident.
If training with a dog, are they ok in the dark? Is their lead and collar secure and can’t break open in an emergency (it has happened to me with the plastic lock leads!). Make sure they are hi vizzed up and fit for the distance and weather. Im not a fan of dogs running on hard ground and would always suggest the canicross harness for owner and dog. Think of their comfort. A dog collar just aggravates the neck and throat area. I do train with my dogs but I have one who is wimpish with other people that come out of the darkness quickly. He is likely to growl, bark and lunge. If I am aware of the space around, I can reassure him that everything is ok. He does make other people hesitate before going past us, but I make sure he is on a short lead and help them through safely. But I certainly don’t discourage him from growling! He does wear a yellow bandana that says “Nervous” and he has a bright light collar so he can be seen. I have done my bit to warn others and behave as a responsible dog owner.
It is healthy to have a fear of training at night and if the is your only time to train then you must embrace it. But just take a few precautionary measures to keep yourself safe. You are also keeping others safe as wearing hi viz and being to hear the surroundings means you are aware of and visible to traffic, cyclists and other runners, walkers.
The list is endless but these are my key tick list before any cycling, running or walking either on a dark morning or evening.
Do you have a good tip to share to keep you and others safe in the dark?